Geography and the Book of Mormon

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"[The angel Moroni] said there was a a book deposited, written upon gold plates, giving an account of the former inhabitants of this continent [not a chunk of Central America thousands of miles away], and the source from whence they sprang." -Joseph Smith
One June 4, 1834, Joseph Smith, traveling through Illinois, wrote to Emma that he and others had been "wandering over the plains of the Nephites, recounting occasionally the history of the Book of Mormon, roving over the mounds of that once beloved people of the Lord, picking up their skulls & their bones, as proof of its divine authenticity."[1]
"Most members of the Church know that the Lamanites, who consist of the Indians of all the Americas as well as the islanders of the Pacific, are a people with a special heritage." -Spencer W. Kimball [1]
"And it came to pass that they did multiply and spread, and did go forth from the land southward to the land northward, and did spread insomuch that they began to cover the face of the whole earth, from the sea south to the sea north, from the sea west to the sea east." -Helaman 3
"The camp passed through Huntsville, in Randolph County, which has been appointed as one of the Stakes of Zion, and is the ancient site of the City of Manti" -The Latter-day Saints' Millennial Star, "History of Joseph Smith", Vol. 16
"Early readers assumed the Book of Mormon people ranged up and down North and South America from upstate New York to Chili. A close reading of the text reveals it cannot sustain such an expansive geography." - Richard Bushman, Rough Stone Rolling, p. 93
"Why not leave hidden the things that the Lord has hidden? If He wants the geography of the Book of Mormon revealed, He will do so through His prophet, and not through some writer who wishes to enlighten the world despite his utter lack of inspiration on the point." - Wilford Woodruff, Journal of Discourses, 5:83




[edit] Hemispheric geography theory

"LDS have traditionally interpreted the text hemispherically and assumed a blank continent." [2]

"Generations of Mormons grew up with the notion that American Indians are descended from a lost tribe from the House of Israel, offspring of a Book of Mormon figure named Lehi, who left Jerusalem and sailed to the Americas around 600 B.C." [3]

"The hemispheric perspective of the Book of Mormon, the idea that most of the ancestors of the Native Americans living everywhere in the Western hemisphere from Alaska to Chile including areas out in the Pacific were Book of Mormon people, is abundantly established in virtually all of the material generated by the church for the last 170 years and recognized as authoritative; such as prophetic conference speeches and books, official lesson manuals, etc." [4]

Although this is the traditionally held belief, because of studies in archaeology, DNA, linguistics, demographics, and archaeology, some (including many Mormon apologists) have attempted to deny that this was the authoritative/exclusive position of Mormonism.

See also: Hemispheric geography theory

[edit] Limited geography theory

"[M]ost LDS scholars have already conceded an Asian origin for Native Americans and admitted the absence of any trace of a presumed progeny of Lehi." [5] Most Mormon apologists and many laymen, in response to DNA research, BoM demographics, and the Native American traditions (which do not correlate with the Book of Mormon), now hold to a limited geography theory.

"[O]nce you say there were other people here, you say: OK, where were the Nephites, and how many more people were here. We have all kinds of other DNA signatures to worry about all of a sudden. It may be that we never find any Hebrew DNA (whatever that looks like) in the New World. ... But if we do find some, that's fine; if we don't find some, that's fine too. There's no way that negative evidence on that hurts the Book of Mormon whatsoever once you believe in a limited geography. If you believe in a global geography, you're basically done, toasted, game over." -John Clark (Professor of Anthropology and Director of the New World Archeological Foundation, BYU) [6]
"Joseph Smith and other early Latter-day Saints, for example, most likely believed that North America was the land northward and that South America was the land southward in the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon itself does not sustain this view (which supports the claim that Joseph was not the 'author' of the Book of Mormon). Along with other frontiersman of the day, Joseph and the early Saints saw no distinction between Indians anywhere in the hemisphere. Therefore to the early Saints, a 'Lamanite' was any Indian. We know now that this view is incorrect." - Michael R. Ash (FAIR)[2]

[edit] Who were the Lamanites?

"Descendants of the Book of Mormon peoples (Population density)", from the December 1975 Ensign[3]

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See main page: Lamanite

[edit] Hill Cumorah

Those who locate the Book of Mormon events in Mesoamerica are forced to explain how Hill Cumorah is thousands of miles north in upper New York state. The general way to deal with this has been to invent a theory of two Cumorahs which categorically rejects statements by Mormon prophets.

See main article: Hill Cumorah

[edit] Zelph the White Lamanite

"[T]he Zelph story goes as follows: While on Zion’s camp, some bones are unearthed on top of a small mound. Joseph Smith declares that the man was Zelph, a white Lamanite and a righteous man. I expected to hear that the Zelph story couldn’t be taken seriously as an actual event - it was just a rumor. It turns out at least 7 or 8 people present at the camp reported on Zelph, including Wilford Woodruff. President Woodruff recorded in his journal that Joseph had a revelation, and that he learned that Zelph was a warrior under the great Prophet Onandagus. After doing my reading, I came away pretty convinced that the Zelph episode did in fact take place. The first problem with this story is immediately evident. If Joseph had a revelation about Zelph, what does that mean for the limited geography theory? If the Book of Mormon took place, as we’re now told, in a small area in Mesoamerica, how did Zelph’s bones end up on a mound in Illinois?" [7]
"The brethren procured a shovel and a hoe, and removing the earth to the depth of about one foot, discovered the skeleton of a man, almost entire, and between his ribs the stone point of a Lamanitish arrow, which evidently produced his death. Elder Burr Riggs retained the arrow. The contemplation of the scenery around us produced peculiar sensations in our bosoms: and subsequently the visions of the past being opened to my understanding by the Spirit of the Almighty, I discovered that the person whose skeleton was before us was a white Lamanite, a large, thick-set man, and a man of God. His name was Zelph. He was a warrior and chieftain under the great prophet Onandagus, who was known from the Hill Cumorah, or eastern sea to the Rocky mountains. The curse was taken from Zelph, or, at least, in part--one of his thigh bones was broken by a stone flung from a sling, while in battle, years before his death. He was killed in battle by the arrow found among his ribs, during the last great struggle of the Lamanites and Nephites." -History Of The Church, Vol II:
“This revelation to the Prophet in relation to Zelph, is something that our modern critics should consider carefully, who claim that the Nephites and Lamanites did not contend in their final struggle in these northern parts of the United States, and that their activities were confined to Central America and perhaps as far north as part of Mexico” (Joseph Fielding Smith, [I]Church History and Modern Revelation[/I] 3:31).

[edit] The Nephite altar on Tower Hill

Cross.jpg This section is a stub. Please edit it to add information.

[edit] Remains of Adam's altar on Spring Hill, Daviess County, Missouri

"On our arrival at Diahman, our camp was pitched upon the town plat which had just been surveyed by direction of the Prophet, and of course each one was anxious to obtain the most eligible, or first choice of lots. As I was young and unmarried my choice would come near the last under the rule of "oldest served first." So when it was my choice I found I must take the top lot on the promontory overlooking the Grand River valley, or go farther away and lower down than I wished to. So I chose the upper, which at first appeared rocky, but which made the other lots appear almost enviable. When, after a few days, the Prophet accompanied us to this spot, and pointed out those rocks as the ones of which Adam built an altar and offered sacrifice upon this spot, where he stood and blessed the multitude of his children, when they called him Michael, and where he will again sit as the Ancient of Days, then I was not envious of anyone's choice for a city lot in Adam-ondi-Ahman. Yet I would not have it inferred that my inheritance there, or those given me elsewhere are to be especially guaranteed to have in future." (Benjamin F. Johnson, My Life's Review [Independence, MO: Zion's Printing and Publishing Co., 1947], 35-36)
"The Prophet Joseph called upon Brother Brigham, myself and others, saying, 'Brethren, come, go along with me, and I will show you something.' He led us a short distance to a place where were the ruins of three altars built of stone, one above the other, and one standing a little back of the other, like unto the pulpits in the Kirtland Temple, representing the order of three grades of Priesthood; 'There,' said Joseph, 'is the place where Adam offered up sacrifice after he was east out of the garden.' The altar stood at the highest point of the bluff. I went and examined the place several times while I remained there." (Heber C. Kimball, quoted in Orson F. Whitney, Life of Heber C. Kimball [Salt Lake City: privately printed, 1888], 209-210)
"... it was stated by the Prophet Joseph Smith, in our hearing, while standing on an elevated piece of ground or plateau near Adam-ondi-Ahman, where there were a number of rocks piled together, that the valley before us was the valley of Adam-ondi-Ahman; or in other words, the valley where God talked with Adam, and where he gathered his righteous posterity, as recorded in the above revelation, and that this pile of stones was an altar built by him when he offered up sacrifices, as we understand, on that occasion." (John Taylor, Mediation and Atonement [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1882], 69-70.)

[edit] "Preserved" for a "righteous people"

"America received her first consecration as a favored land when the Lord planted here the Garden of Eden as a habitation for Adam and Eve. ... A thousand years later Enoch's Zion flourished here. ... And then some six hundred years thereafter this land was deluged by the Flood and left uninhabited, so far as human beings were concerned, until the Lord led to this land from the tower of Babel a colony of people, the Jaredites, declaring as he led them that he was bringing them to a 'land of promise, ... choice above all other lands,' and 'that whoso should possess this land ... from that time henceforth and forever, should serve him, the true and only God, or they should be swept off when the fulness of his wrath should come upon them' (Ether 2:7-8. ... Six hundred years B.C., as time was running out for the Jaredites, the Lord brought to this land Lehi and his colony. Before they arrived here the Lord said to them, as he had said to the Jaredites, 'Inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments, ye shall prosper, and shall be led to a land of promise; yea, even a land which I have prepared for you; yea, a land which is choice above all other lands' (1 Nephi 2:20). Simultaneously he warned them that if they did not serve him, they would not prosper in the land but would be cut off from his presence." - Marion G. Romney[4]

[edit] Quotes

[edit] Notes

  1. Jessee, Dean C (1984), The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book. p. 324
  2. Michael R. Ash, "What is 'Official' LDS Doctrine?". URL:
  3. Lane Johnson, "Who and Where Are the Lamanites?" Ensign, Dec. 1975, p. 15
  4. Marion G. Romney, "America's Fate and Ultimate Destiny". "Marion G. Romney was second counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when this fireside address was given at Brigham Young University on 2 May 1976." URL:

[edit] See also

[edit] External resouces

[edit] Non-Mormon

[edit] Mormon

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